Day 27: Competition

Day 27

Little Laurel Shelter to Flint Mountain Shelter

Mike’s Hiked: 14

AT Milage: 308.5

This morning I got out of my sleeping bag at 6:15 and we all got on trail at 7:05. Everyone else in the shelter was still sleeping except Spider who got on trail about 15 minutes before we did. We wanted to be the first ones out of camp so we had a chance at getting to camp in the next shelter. Every time the weather is bad on trail, hiking turns into a competition for the day. Everyone wants to get a spot in the shelters, especially when the weather is bad for several days in a row.

It rained all morning as we hiked. Walking through the rain for multiple days in a row is very challenging both mentally and physically. The trail turns into a mini river and every step you take is ankle deep in mud or on top of a slippery rock. Eventually the rain stopped for a bit and we scrambled along a ridge line above tree line for quite a while. Scrambling is when you are climbing up big piles of rocks often using your hands. I was going so slow over all the slippery rocks. Every step I take requires a lot of patience and thought in the rain. The scramble along the ridge line was some of the most technical trail terrain I’ve hit so far.

We took a quick lunch break at the next shelter and talked to some hikers who were lingering. I am always shocked to run into people who sleep in really late on trail and get to camp really late as well. I hit mile marker 300 today and felt proud about it for a while. Only 1800 something more miles to Katahdin!

I had very high hopes for getting a spot at the shelter, but I knew I shouldn’t have them. Every time I get really high hopes about a shelter spot in the rain, I feel crushed and in bad spirits when it doesn’t happen. The closer we got the more I tried to tell myself that we would not get a spot. When we got there the shelter was packed with a group that seemed to be related to each other. Miraculously they offered to move over and make room for us without us even considering asking them. This was extremely kind of them because most other hikers would not want to have a shelter completely packed to the brim. We ended up fitting 9 people total in the shelter. Everyone’s sleeping pad was shoved right up against each other and there wasn’t an inch to spare. We had a great time getting to know this group of southbound section hikers. They made a giant fire out of wet wood and made sure everyone could enjoy it. We realized how incredibly lucky we were to get a spot in the shelter when a large number of hikers who were behind us showed up to the shelter 30 minutes after we did. If we had hiked any slower or taken one more break, we would have had to sleep in wet tents in the rain all night. The section hikers were some of the most enjoyable people I have met on trail so far. Staying in the shelter with us are two father-son duos, one thru hiker who is leapfrogging southbound, and another solo section hiker. All of them are going southbound and will probably stay together for their whole sections because they like each other a lot. We ended up playing the card game “speed” with them which was fun. More and more people kept showing up to the shelter late into the evening. Most of them were people who were at the same campsite as us last night. I assume they must sleep in until after 10pm because I doubt they are slow hikers. I am so happy and thankful to be in a warm, dry shelter, with an enjoyable group of people for the night. Now we are only 32 miles from the car in Erwin, TN. I am wanting to get there as fast as possible so I can start my long stretch of Zeros to rest my feet.

Happy Trails!

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